I was feeling nostalgic today, thinking about my history with different churches and congregations. I’ve got some really good memories, y’all.
And they smell like fried chicken and taste like sweet tea.
They sound like laughter after a couple beers and feel like my feet just brushing the water by the lake with my friends.
I grew up in a very tight-knit church where my uncle was the pastor, my mother was the worship leader, and we were all in church about three times a week for practice or service of some sort. The youth group was my friend group. We had sleepovers (aka, LOCK-IN’s for those of you who remember those) and played on the city-league softball team together (and were all terrible) and all participated in the Christmas and Easter cantatas.
It felt like family.
Fried chicken dinners every Wednesday. Sunday morning worship services followed by Sunday evening youth group and adult bible studies. We met together. We broke bread together. But we never drank together, because, obviously, that was for sinners.
I didn’t feel that same sense of family through high school. It wasn’t till my junior year of school that I finally found a church that felt like home. It felt like a glove. I instantly was part of the family. I was able to serve as a musician on the worship team. I was able to volunteer with the youth. We met on Saturdays, having an evening service that then turned into dinners with too many people and a handful of places around town.
Laughter. So much laughter. Inside jokes and bemoaning the youth doing something stupid. Bible studies and passionate prayer nights. Honest confession and a desire to be a people who loved well and did good. A belief that God was still moving in big, supernatural ways in our midst… I finally felt like I was stepping into my own as a follower of Jesus in that space. All the while battling my sexuality, the thorn in my flesh, the thing that God would heal.
Those were beautiful spaces for a time and a season. But, the thing about faith is that it grows, sometimes it grows to be too large for the space it finds itself in. And you have a choice at that point.
Either squelch the growth or find a bigger space.
And that’s what happened to me. My faith began to grow beyond what my faith community at the time could handle, what they could foster in good conscience. My beliefs didn’t line up anymore with what they said I had to believe, even with the acknowledgment that we could believe differently…. go figure.
Even for all the bad stuff… I miss the good stuff. Does that make sense?
It’s like I can acknowledge that it was good for who I was, but not for who I was becoming, but I have so missed that feeling of just having a place to belong, without question or qualifiers, without having to be something I’m not and without having to be a particular somebody.
Nadia Bolz Webber said that she started the church she wanted to go to. It was 5 folks in a living room. Now it’s a full-blown congregation in Denver and it’s doing really well…
… so me and some friends decided to follower her lead, in a sense.
I started out as a couple of brunches. We wanted to see if there were any other queer Christians out there who were longing for community and if there might be any allies who could be into this idea of a more progressive space, where queer folks and women and POC voices would be elevated because they were fought to be heard elsewhere.
And after a few brunches, we gathered in a living room, seven of us, and we started to dream a bit bigger. What this could look like, who we wanted to be. Most of us go to the same “loving-but-not-affirming” church where, depending on the visibility of your queerness, you may be limited in your participation, and so organizing as such we knew that we could impact our church for the better while also providing space for folks like us.
Then we started. We told people we were gathering and to show up for worship, for conversation, and for bread and wine. And they showed up. And they’ve kept showing up, week after week.
… how do you describe a taste of heaven?
It’s queer folks and straight folks.
It’s white people and POCs.
It’s sharing deep hurt and great joy.
It’s worship songs lead by a gay worshiper leader and bread and wine being handed to you by a woman.
It’s not know what’s next and leaning into awkward moments.
It’s laughing because you were missing something you never knew you needed and breathing easy because it feels so familiar.
It’s like fried chicken and sweet tea…
It’s laughter and water…
It feels like family.
My friends and I started a little house church because we needed to start the church we needed. And it’s doing something good for people. It’s doing something good for me. Each week that I am there, I’m blown away by the love people have and the frank conversation they are willing to dive into.We started the church that we needed... Click To Tweet
It’s people who have been profoundly wounded by Christians who still long to be Christians themselves. It’s folks who have questions but don’t necessarily need answers, just to the room to wonder.
It’s what I imagine the book of Acts talks about, when folks met together in their homes, praying, breaking bread, devoting themselves to the scriptures and the teachings of the apostles, having everything in common and no one lacking…
Each week, I am lead to still waters by the Spirit and by the people who come, and I lack nothing…
We call it “The Open Table.” Each week we worship in one form or another. Each week we pray. Each week we share the bread and wine. Each week, we affirm that we are the children of God, no matter what the world, the Church, our families, or what even what we say about it.
It is Holy. And I’m so grateful to have a space that, once again, feels like family.
If you want to follow the journey of The Open Table House Church, I’d love for you to LIKE our Facebook Page, and if you’re in the Atlanta area and you want to come hang out with us, please do. We meet on Wednesdays starting at 7:30. DM for the details on FB, Twitter or Instagram. All of my social media links are above.